I'm excited to to bring you "Letters from Lydia" a Pride and Prejudice vignette as part of the incredible Austenesque Extravaganza! For this fun piece I collaborated with the amazingly talented authors Sarah Burgess (Dear Miss Darcy) and Cecilia Gray (The Jane Austen Academy Series). Below you'll find all three parts to our "hidden" Pride and Prejudice scene where Kitty Bennet receives letters from her mischievous younger sister Lydia, who is visiting Brighton. Part I was authored by myself; Part II comes from Sarah's pen, and Part III is the genius of Cecilia. Happy reading!
Letters from Lydia
Brighton! The exciting sea resort where the youngest and most impetuous of the Bennet girls was certain she would be the object of at least ten different conquests from the encamped officers. Her head was already filled with visions of red-coated admirers violently flirting with her over tea and dances.
It was bound to end in an offer of marriage; possibly even a duel. Such far-fetched predictions were always on her tongue, as she consulted her mother on what garments to pack, or what ribbon best suited her new hat.
Of course, much of this speculation was for the benefit of her sisters. Particularly Kitty--poor Kitty, who being two years older (as she so emphatically pointed out) was equally entitled to such a venture if not more so.
For this plea, she found little sympathy from her sisters. Lizzie was bound for a tour of the lakes with their aunt and uncle; Jane, usually so understanding, was occupied with reflections concerning a certain gentleman now gone to London. And Mary--well, she was not to be troubled by officers and balls when so many philosophical quandaries demanded her attention every day.
Kitty, though, had little to fill her time, without even so much as a card party on the near horizon. In short, nothing to look forward to except a minute account of her younger sister’s adventures among the lively crowds at Brighton.
These, she was assured, would make her wildly jealous. As if she weren’t envious enough, to the point that the very word “officer” brought tears to her eyes. The trek to Meryton, where the camp once made its headquarters, was now the equivalent of visiting the church graveyard.
As promised, the first two letters--one addressed to Mrs. Bennet and one to Kitty--arrived shortly after Lydia had taken up residence with the Colonel and Mrs. Forester. Dispensed at the luncheon table by the footman, these communications were received with squeals of delight from Mrs. Bennet.
“At last, news from our dear girl,” she informed the others. Slitting open an envelope that held a surprisingly brief account, the single sheet of stationery being devoted to a colorless description of Lydia’s journey to the new lodgings. A small anecdote of how she almost dropped her new hatbox in the mud was the highlight of the note.
“And to think, my dear,” Mr. Bennet observed in his dry humored way, “I prevented you from partaking of such a remarkable experience. Brighton is a lively place indeed, based on such an account.”
Across the table, Kitty quietly perused her own much longer letter, and noted a vast difference in its content. Concerned mostly with her sister’s many visits to the regiment--with only Mrs. Forester for a chaperone-- it held the same secretive tone they used to share in private conversations.
Kitty tucked it out of sight, a measure that proved unnecessary as their father begged to be spared anymore details of the supposedly fascinating endeavor.
So it proved with the next letter, which she took care not to open before the others. Instead, she scanned the meaning by the light of the candle that flickered on her dressing table. Her lips moving to the words as she absorbed this newest bit of mischief:
I will not bore you with a description of my new parasol as I did Mamma in that last letter I wrote. For you, surely, will understand that there is more fun to be found in Brighton than merely the shops and libraries and tea gatherings.
Even the balls and parties cannot compare with the little tête-à-têtes one carries out both during and after the main event. These are almost required, and you can imagine how difficult it becomes as one’s admirers grow in number.
Lord, if you could hear the things they say! Such and such about my hair and eyes and goodness knows what all. I should blush to write any of it down, though it is not a bit wrong (though I am sure Mary would disagree!)
One gentleman in particular--but no, I will not say it. Not yet, at least. I shall choose to leave you in suspense on that note, only to say that one of my suitors is far superior to the rest. Handsome and charming and admired by all!
Please do keep this between us for the time being. For I would hate to excite too much jealousy in our sisters, who I know must already deeply resent my stroke of good fortune.
She could not show this to anyone.
Such was Kitty’s thought, as she tucked her sister’s latest communication out of sight beneath the dining room table. More and more, the letters from Brighton contained information she was certain her father, and her elder sisters Lizzie and Jane, would never approve.
Stories of romance and rendezvous. Secret meetings with a mystery man whom Lydia assured her the Bennet family was already quite wild about from their previous acquaintance in Meryton. In fact, she implied that more than one heart should be broken were the gentleman in question to settle any serious design upon her before the summer was out.
“He was a great favorite of our own Lizzie,” one letter teased, even as another declared he was never in danger of giving his heart to anyone else, but now seemed ready to bestow it upon herself at a moment’s notice .
To betray Lydia was something she couldn’t bring herself to do, even as she grew increasingly worried about the described events. So she concealed the freshly arrived notes behind embroidery hoops and books; anywhere she could to keep them from prying eyes, until time permitted an escape to her room or else the garden.
Panting slightly, she made her way this morning to the stretch of lawn that Lizzie was so fond of walking. Since her older sister was now on her tour of the Lakes, there was no danger she would stumble upon Kitty as she devoured another piece of gossip from Brighton.
With a sigh, Kitty spread herself across the garden bench, unfurling a piece of stationery to read these tantalizing yet infuriating words:
It is enough to make me laugh aloud as I picture all your faces were you to know the truth. But I have promised my love--for that is what I call my own dear one--that I will not breathe a word on the subject without his permission.
How secretive he is! Insisting we meet away from everyone at such times I am sure no reasonable person should be out of doors. Yet I cannot refuse his request when I see the tender pleading in his eyes.
Do not be shocked Kitty, to know I have already felt the touch of his lips. Such a sensation I should never be able to describe were I to try even!
Still, I mustn’t give too much away. My love is almost frantic that anyone else should find out, though I’ve assured him it is nothing to be ashamed about. Were it up to me, we should declare it before the whole camp.
Perhaps we shall, before many more weeks.
Kitty practically pounced on the correspondence as the footman laid it on the luncheon table, but Mamma brushed her eager hand aside with a squeal of delight. “What news will we have today?” Mamma asked with a clap of her hands.
What news, indeed, Kitty wondered as she shrunk back in her seat and nervously picked at a stray thread from her dress. There had been no news from Lydia since her salacious note which had sent Kitty into hysterics. Fortunately these particular hysterics were not distinguishable from Kitty’s routine hysterics, and Mamma was none the wiser to Lydia’s transgressions. Kitty was not so fortunate and her very pulse seemed tethered to the comings and goings of the letter carrier.
Mamma scooped the white envelopes into her palm and flipped through them one by one. “Not another from Mrs. Lucas.” She rolled her eyes and tossed it aside. “As if I could bear to read another word about the bore of…oh…ah! Finally that dreaded child has remembered from whence she spawned.”
Mamma held the letter up to the light streaming in through the dining room window, and Kitty’s breath caught at the sight of Lydia’s lazy script.
“This is addressed to you, Kitty. But where is ours?” Mamma flipped through the remaining cards. “There appears to be just the one. Perhaps it is intended for all of us. I shall read--”
Mamma shrieked as Kitty dashed from her chair and ripped Lydia’s letter away with such force the paper tore and rent the air. Kitty ignored her father’s bark of indignation, ignored Mary’s drone of censure, and particularly ignored her mother’s high-pitched fit as she ran fast as her legs could carry her out the house and down the pebbled road.
It wasn’t until she had run for what felt like miles, and may have been given she was nearly to Bingley’s, that Kitty rested her hand over her aching chest and gasped in much needed breath. Oh, but she would pay for this. She wavered between equal desires that her punishment be for naught and that Lydia’s letter contained news to merit her actions.
Her heavy legs collapsed from the endurance of her sprint. She could not contain herself a moment longer to crawl under the nearby tree for shade from the uncharacteristic heat of the blazing sun overhead. Instead, at the side of the road in a damp bed of grass, she opened the letter, now with a jagged, ripped edge along the bottom. With shaky hands, she began to read.
By the time you read this, I’ll be a woman in every sense. To finally have surpassed Jane! To finally know things that not even Lizzie knows! I was never in doubt of this day but to finally be at its precipice leaves me quaking with excitement.
I promise, of course, to share everything with you. While I love our dear older sisters, I thankfully did not inherit their miserly ways with knowledge. As you may never know the joy and experience of being in love, it is my obligation to share my own happiness with you. I shall do it gladly.
While my beloved still has his reasons for our liason remaining a secret, it will soon be known to the world so I see no harm in you knowing first. Please do not tell Lizzie. I feel I should at least afford her the courtesy of a personal announcement given that my beloved is none other--
Kitty turned the letter over and back. She ran a finger along the jagged bottom edge of the letter whose remnant with the man’s name remained firmly with Mamma.